Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Racing The Munga 2016 - On a Dark Desert Highway.

After leaving Pampoenpoort Rafeeq and I rode alongside each other and chatted. We weren't solving the worlds problems or devising a strategy to save the rhino or win the race - just small talk about this and that.

60 km is a long way to ride considering how far we had ridden and how little sleep we had had. 50 km of the remaining distance to Loxton was on the same nondescript district road made even more monotonous by riding it at night with the glow of our headlights defining the boundaries of our "world". When the chit chat ran out I resorted to listening to music.

I have an eclectic mix of music on my phone. Some recent and some nostalgic spanning some four decades. Over the years some of the music on my phone has taken on special significance in relation to my riding.

A Freedom Challenge favourite is Beautiful Dawn by James Blunt. Those racing hard are always out and about hours before the first hint of light traces the outline of the eastern skyline. Barring inclement weather the waking of the eastern sky is a harbinger of a warm sun that will both see off the iciness of the night and chase away the wee hour sleep monsters. The lyrics in that context make interesting reading:

"Beautiful dawn - I'm just chasing time again.
Thought I would die a lonely man, in endless night.
But now I'm high; running wild among all the stars above.
Beautiful dawn - melt with the stars again.
Do you remember the day when my journey began?"

Another song that now has a strong Freedom Challenge connotation was playing as I crossed over the Schurfteberg on the Race to Craddock earlier this year. I Wish It Would Rain Down by Phil Collins, was playing as the heavens opened and soaked me to the bone. It was an amusing coincidence and I am reminded of that thunderstorm every time I have heard that song since the race.

A new song connection was made as we rode into Loxton - Hotel California. Some of the lyrics had me smiling:
"On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair."
"Up ahead in the distance I saw a shimmering light. My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night.",
"We are all just prisoners here of our own device",
"You can check out any time you like but you can never leave".

As the lights of Loxton beckoned we were directed off a good tar road and routed through a farm that presented the scratchiest part of the race. We stopped a couple of times to reconcile the GPS directions with the featureless veld that lay ahead. Obeying the GPS we forged ahead slowly scanning the bush with our headlamps until a jeep track, or rather the remnant of what might have been a jeep track, appeared in front of us. We scribbled through the bush, over dry river beds, along fences, around buildings, through a farm yard around a dam or two and eventually emptied out on a tar road a few hundred metres from the appointed Race Village at Die Rooi Granaat in the middle of town.

Arriving 6 minutes faster than the previous year I had finally managed to make up the time lost on day one. I was just over halfway through the race. My ambition to finish 10 hours faster than the previous year was going to be challenging.

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